'I think that we can perhaps meditate a little on those Americans ten thousand years from now...Let us hope that at least they will give us the benefit of the doubt, that they will believe we have honestly striven every day and generation to preserve for our descendants a decent land to live in and a decent form of government to operate under.'—Franklin Delano Roosevelt at Mt. Rushmore August 30, 1936.
The title above is a line from a poem I never finished, itself inspired by the painter J.M.W. Turner's unfinished poem Fallacies of Hope. (I liked the idea that there might also be guarantees.) Whatever it meant to me at the time, long ago, it seems even more resonant and relevant now.
Why do we get out of bed in the morning? Out of habit certainly, but at some level we have to believe that in the day ahead we may make some small incremental progress toward our goals, whatever they may be. A small improvement in the garden. The flourish of a job well done. We must have hope that we will find some joy in the day, some satisfaction that brings a sense of well-being. We must have something to look forward to.
That is enough for most people and in a decent land, in a decently ordered civil society, most people wake up confident in the unwritten guarantee that it is not too much to ask from life. It is achievable.
Unfortunately, the guarantee is crumbling away, almost everywhere, revealing the fallacies.
Economically, the world's wealth continues to accumulate in fewer and fewer hands. There are millions of refugees who will waste years of their lives in one tent city or another. They have mostly fled Middle Eastern conflicts which are in turn the direct consequence of more than 150 years of European interference and incompetence. (But that's another story.) Terrorist acts are now a global threat and reality as never before in history.
If we forget all that for a moment, and this is easy enough to do on a sunny day in Australia, we have problems of our own. There is a crisis in housing affordability and the price of electricity has risen to insane levels. Wages growth is slow, and going backwards in some cases. There is now a whole generation of people in casual work who will never have a full-time job or enough money to realise their dreams. (It's over for them. Why do they get out of bed in the morning?) The pressure is mounting and countless tragedies are unfolding behind closed doors.
Is this a decent land?
"We can almost forgive political leaders for failures of imagination, even failures of courage, but there seems to be an active principle at work - the deliberate and calculated denial of hope."
In the United States Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency on many promises to restore jobs and make his country great again. He has appointed a Cabinet of billionaires and between them they have not put forward a single idea that will benefit anyone, beyond giving extra pocket money to the rich in tax cuts. Their plan to take affordable health care away from millions of their fellow citizens is an exquisite exercise in what our late great Bob Ellis called 'sadomonetarism'.
Is America a decent land?
In the UK, masochism seems to be the order of the day as they throw away 50 years of patient, intelligent effort integrating with a strong and stable Europe.
We can almost forgive political leaders for failures of imagination, even failures of courage, but there seems to be an active principle at work - the deliberate and calculated denial of hope.
In our mediocre government, in the most mediocre Parliament formed in my lifetime, the greatest denier of hope is our Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, a zealot who has condemned thousands of asylum-seekers to indefinite detention in appalling conditions, and who clearly simmers with regret that he has not punished them enough. Perhaps it is simple sadism after all.
There are those who deny, and those who wish to give.
Franklin Roosevelt at Mt. Rushmore in 1936, meditating a little on those who would come after us in ten thousand years, also said 'Will they remember that we cared for each other?'
John Ellison Davies lives in Gosford, NSW. He worked for many years in courts administration. His poems have appeared in Eureka Street.
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02 August 2017
Recently, I was privileged to visit that beautiful and bewildering country, the US of A. Before visiting Mt Rushmore and viewing the stone images of four great Presidents, I saw something that gave me lots of hope. The Crazy Horse Memorial is nearby in the Black Hills of Dakota and, like the images of the Presidents, is carved out of a mountaintop. It was started in 1948 by sculptor Korczak and Lakota Chief Standing Bear. Korczak's family and supportive others continue the massive work. Awesome, and I don't say that lightly.
02 August 2017
", the guarantee is crumbling away". Perhaps the greatest source of hope comes from the gradual realisation the God has designed everything to evolve. To develop from simple beginnings to more wonderful complexities rather than stagnating in out-dated traditional ways. It is well illustrated in the parable of the grain of wheat, which if allowed to find its place in the ground, seemingly to decay, it will produce much fruit. Hamlet made a pertinent observation; 'There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we may'.
If we allow God's providence to flourish, by updating old traditions that were useful in their day but are no longer efficacious, we can help bring about a bright future we cannot even imagine as yet.
Dr Marty Rice
02 August 2017
Dear John that's a heart-felt cry; straight brought to mind Emily Dickinson's:
"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all, . ." This morning I listened to a CD of Tom Wright speaking inspirationally about Christian Mission (from www.bne.catholic.net.au/mission). Tom placed our hope firmly in the resurrection of Jesus Christ as THE event that categorically defeated evil and death; so inaugurating The New Creation. He gave lively examples showing how, when the Church actually lives what King Jesus has done/is doing/and will do, she becomes The Light of the World, bringing hope to all in pain and despair and sin and decay. He illustrated this brilliantly by reference to Gerard Manley Hopkins' 'The Grandeur of God', with its recursive theme of God's glory in nature, spoiled by the sorts of human greed you describe so well, yet with Holy hope in the Inaugurated Eschaton about to fully burst in, making everything new - just as in Jesus' Resurrection. If the Church becomes bogged in sin, she forfeits that cosmically preeminent role, leaving the world open to re-enslavement by the principalities & powers . . .
02 August 2017
Thanks John. Appreciated this.
05 August 2017
Hope:- to desire very much; the ground for expecting something desired; a feeling that what one desires will happen.
I was so pleased to see this foundational tool for life being raised for consideration.
I feel that we are in a conundrum, spending hours in front of our screens, being distracted through advertising to want; disempowered by words of frustration, or elated by words of agreement with our aspirations; finding words to type in our responses.
I'm inclined to think that real hope is only possible in the real company of the physical presence of another which challenges and engages our capacity to bring about a desired change.
Dr Marty Rice
07 August 2017
Dear Helen Cantwell, I like your post, in the sense that hope fires up when we interact socially. For me, a gradual coming to know Jesus Christ and his deep tranquility had the outflow of an enormous increase in capacity to really listen to and speak healing and hope for hurting people; plus, a reciprocal increase in capacity to receive words of hope and healing. Rejoicing in this doubly-positive, social deepening has helped mature an outgoing faith in Christ and a lively hope in his promises.